• a few good apples

    March 18th, 2014

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    Today I’d like to show you a few good apples. They’re a little bit nicked and pocked in spots, but overall, pretty beautiful with an honest bite, surface to core. Perhaps that’s because they’re not modified or engineered to grow excessively large, or coated with wax to shine under fluorescent lamps. Cut one open and you can see the apple goodness. They’re from a farm that doesn’t manufacture apples — they’re from a farm that grows them.

    Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to identify good apples, to tell those that are grown from those that are manufactured. I only wish I could say the same about elected leaders. Good luck at the polls, everyone. I’ve been thinking long and hard on your dilemma.

    apple-trip

    Posted in Food & Drink, Places | | 1 Comment
  • lately at cochine

    February 24th, 2014

    prawns and table

    Well what do we have here? Thanks to Chef Maxwell and Co, some rather tasty new Vietnamese-inspired morsels debuted recently at Cochine (one of my favourite Istanbul haunts) so I was asked to come by and document the colourful array for marketing and social media purposes. Don’t know about you, but I’m suddenly rather hungry and looking forward to my next meal. Look at that mouthwatering Pak Choy below! Kind of makes me want to shout out loud. Yeah, baby.

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    Posted in Food & Drink | | 2 Comments
  • turpentine latté: menengiç kahvesi

    February 13th, 2014

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    Last weekend in Urfa, at the Gümrük Han, I experienced a new type of hot drink that is far tastier — and probably far healthier — than many a high street chain store latté, known as menengiç kahvesi. Made from the dried and roasted wild fruit of Pistacia Terebinthus or the Turpentine Tree, I’d like to dub it the Turpentine Latté in English! Sounds appetizing, no? Okay, maybe not. In any case, the first sip was something quite unexpected and quite delicious, and I felt compelled to sample a second, which was not as enjoyable because it was overly sweet. However, since trying it at home, unsweetened, as I normally take my black coffee, I’ve discovered this is a welcome alternative to an evening coffee, when you have no desire to go to bed with caffeine-induced heart palpitations, or stay up all night pondering the meaning of the universe. Despite my desire to homemake it from the peppercorn-like dried fruit, I ended up buying a jar of the Sekeroglu brand syrup (100% menengiç — no additives or preservatives) which you simply need to mix with milk and heat. The man in the Urfa spice shop assured us we couldn’t home roast or grind the dried fruit. He said, however, that the dried fruit was very healthy to eat. It seems from a preliminary look that it does in fact bestow all sorts of anti-inflammatory benefits and is being researched for possible anti-cancer effects. So if you’re in this part of the world, be sure to try a Turpentine Latté or two. Afiyet olsun.

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  • gnarly nutrition

    February 6th, 2014

    artichoke chin

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    Artichoke diptych

    upside down art

    artichoke bunch

    If Dirty Harry Callahan were turned into flower, he’d be an artichoke. No doubt. Tough and weathered on the outside but on the whole a force for good. He’d be a thistle in the side — I know, the expression is ‘thorn’ but artichokes are a type of thistle not rose — of any bad-ass interlopers who thought they could muscle in on his vegetable patch. Feeling lucky, punk? Eat an artichoke.

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  • edible sunshine?

    January 30th, 2014

    turmeric

    lemon

    honey

    Ever get the feeling that nature speaks in codes? This won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but … I do. Especially when it comes to foods. That’s why I think our dietary needs are colour coded to tell us in which season they’d be most useful. Take yellow for instance. During flu season, I think of nature’s golden gifts. Whether it’s a lush, saturated orange-yellow as in Turmeric (both the dry, powdered form or fresh root) lemon, honey, ginger, all of which have powerful healing and health-preserving properties. It’s almost as if these naturally occurring colours provide the kind of stored-up sunshine we miss during the wan winter months when the light turns pale and washed out. Notice how the turmeric roots stain the wood? Call me crazy but the alchemist in me thinks of that as edible sunshine, my friends. Eat it up.

    turmeric diptych

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    Posted in Food & Drink | | 1 Comment
  • the ultimate grain

    January 12th, 2014

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    Oat diptych

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    Perhaps I’m biased, being descended from Scottish stock, but I think the humble wee oat is a champion among grains. I wonder if Robbie Burns ever made an ode to an oat? He certainly did an Address To A Haggis, and would haggis be the same beast without oatsOats seem to have a special affinity for fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and thus make nice chewy cookies, or if you’re feeling like ramping up the fruit factor further, contribute magnificently to a spot of crumble. Perhaps even more intriguingly (for some of us, at least) they also wash down nicely when brewed into a fantastic kind of stout that finishes with an even more chocolatey silk finish than that possessed by a Guinness. God, I’d really love a pint now. I hope Brewmaster Hall at the Bosphorus Brewing Company is reading this. If you prefer to keep your oat drinks in the all ages category, however, you might try the Latin American delight, Avena.

    Oatmeal isn’t processed to the same extent that many other everyday grains are, and so seems to retain a whole whack more nutrition, fibre and antioxidant power than its rivals. If a sheaf of oat challenged a sheaf of wheat to an arm wrestle, there’d be no contest. Its health benefits are legion. Spiced with some cinnamon and ginger, it also warms you up in a way that two slices of toast just don’t seem to when the thermometer drops at this time of year.

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  • new year, new breakfast

    January 3rd, 2014

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    The morning paper said that coffee helped ward off the most common form of liver cancer, and so he poured himself a fresh cup, confident in this latest research. One item on the breakfast menu, at least, was safe. No milk, no sugar, though. No, thank you. They said dairy was bad. They said sugar was more addictive to the system than heroin. It was a new year. He was going to eat only healthy choices from now on. Excise the bread from his meals. He ate three crunchy cucumbers. A mouthful of freshly washed, organic (he hoped) spinach. He could almost imagine all the toxins being chased from within. He felt relieved. He felt enlivened. He felt a little hungry still. Stone oven baked simit didn’t really count as bread, did it? And if it did, well he’d make sure none appeared on the table tomorrow. It had sesame seeds, and those were healthy, right? Perhaps a little pat of butter too, he thought. It was winter after all, and needed the extra vitamin D … or was it E? Good for the bones, or skin, or something.

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    Breakfast-Diptych

    Then he saw the honey. Nature’s purest and oldest form of sweetener. The original gold. Yep, surely a good choice. Besides bee colonies had been suffering, lately. Productivity was down. Anything he could do to help those bees recognize their importance in the food chain was a good idea. Absolutely. But you don’t want to overdo the sweet, now do you? Or mix carbs with protein. Or was that fruit with protein? Find out later … how could you go wrong with some vitamin and protein rich eggs?

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    After, he leaned back in his chair and sighed, while his stomach gurgled its contentment. “Ah, 2014,” he said, “It’s going to be a good year, isn’t it?” He was resolute.

    Posted in Food & Drink | | 2 Comments
  • winter feast

    December 28th, 2013

    table

    charcuterie

    cheese board

    Sometimes I find it hard to think of a more satisfying adventure than the sharing of food. The sight of the table ready, the expectation of guests, the stories that will be shared, the glances hovering over the cheese and charcuterie, the beginning, the rich wine and garlic aroma wafting from the oven, the clink of the glasses, and the slow, steady devastation of the table that follows are all as important as the food itself. May the New Year bring us many such a feast.

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  • cochine

    December 20th, 2013

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    cochine diptych

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    corner seat

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    Chris and Melis

    Just wanted to share with you a sample of some photography I recently did for Cochine in Beyoglu. It’s a cozy spot halfway down Kumbaracı Yokuşu I first mentioned in a separate post last year that serves French-influenced Vietnamese cuisine and is run by a super great couple, Melis and Chris Maxwell (immediately above). This year there’s a new menu and some fantastic new talent in the kitchen, which is why they called me in to take some shots.

    I really love the place as it’s one of the few venues in town I will continue to hang around in after a great dinner. At most places, you might eat a good meal but won’t feel an inclination to linger once the plates have been cleared. That’s not the case here. With live music on many an evening and some quite nice cocktails being whipped up behind the bar, it’s easy to get into (and stay into) a Cochine kind of mood. In fact, if I were persuaded to go out New Year’s Eve, this is exactly the sort of place I’d head.

  • chef sof and the gingerbread men

    December 9th, 2013

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    sof combo 1

    At three-years-old there’s a certain someone who has begun to take the arrival of December very seriously. As parents, therefore, it seems we must as well. Yet since only one of us comes from a land that fully embraced Christmas — at least once upon a time — it has become incumbent upon him to creative direct the proceedings. Fortunately, the other parent is an enthusiastic convert to the festive season. Especially now that she’s seen just how magic certain traditions can become when you have a small but significant believer in your life. So this year, we are trying to make it more of an event than ever before. And after a certain someone arrived home disappointed to miss out on the cookery class the other day it seemed like a good idea to kick the season off with a new tradition, the tradition of baking Gingerbread men … people … persons.

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    sof combo 2

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    But before Chef Sof’s adventures in baking could begin, we had to source our ingredients. For instance, nutmeg in Turkish? Apparently it’s muskat or küçük hindistan cevizi. Know what hindistan cevizi is? Coconut … omit the küçük and you’re presented with a distinctly different nut, which isn’t a nut at all. Then there’s good old-fashioned blackstrap molasses … or rather, there isn’t. Fortunately some consultation and multi-lingual cross-referencing revealed üzüm pekmezi (grape molasses) would do just fine. So after a couple of trips here and there we had everything we needed. In fact, we had rather more than we needed as a quick check of the cupboards would have revealed, because there, unopened, and labeled boldly in English was a very fine shaker of ground nutmeg. Let’s just say some unseasonable language was heard.

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    Anyway, Martha Stewart, if you’re reading this, don’t fear. You won’t have any competition from the Welbournes of Istanbul anytime soon. Great fun was had. And while some of us like our gingerbread persons just fine, others seem to prefer the candy-coated chocolate buttons that adorn them a little bit more. We didn’t even get around to the icing. Maybe next time.

    Posted in Food & Drink | | 1 Comment